Embracing the fear of failure

January 25, 2011

This short article from Carlin Flora makes a number of worthy points about our fear of failure, particularly its relevance to the world of work.

Unless we learn to embrace failure (whether it’s led by an unavoidable mishap,  moral lapse, or a risk miscalculated), we remain snugly tucked inside our comfort zone. The pressure to be perfect leaves us tip-toeing around family members or coasting on automatic pilot at work, feeling safe but stagnated—and not quite alive.

There’s a mountain of academic literature on failure but apart from assigning blame and learning from mistakes, the aspect that really interests me is the importance of reparation at work.

Everyone messes up. It’s the ability to say “I’m sorry” and to fix the relationships that count.

Reparation is such a central part of our personal relationships yet it seems the capacity and willingness to say ‘I’m sorry’ is absent from our work lives.  Perhaps its that it ‘sorry’ implies liability and liability implies blame and blame implies reparation of the darkest kind – revenge rather than repair.  What would customer service look like if we could say ‘I’m sorry, I screwed up’? How might our emotional engagement with brands change on the basis of an organisation’s capacity for ordinariness? What might our offerings look like were we to frame them as the ‘best we can do’ rather than aiming for impossibly high and unreachable standards that leave us with the certainty of disappointment rather than the hope of attainment?

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